Brahms, Mozart: Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45; plus rehearsal; Mozart: Serenade in D, K239

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COMPOSERS: Brahms,Mozart
LABELS: ICA Classics
WORKS: Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45; plus rehearsal; Mozart: Serenade in D, K239
PERFORMER: Elisabeth Grümmer (soprano), Hermann Prey (baritone); Cologne Radio Symphony Chorus & Orchestra/Otto

In this 1956 Cologne Radio performance, sourced from the original master tape, Otto Klemperer underlines the grand architectural proportions of the German Requiem while piercing close to its spiritual heart, as he does in his classic 1962 recording, with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, reissued last year on EMI Classics. 
His performance here is, however, a good deal shorter, mainly due to Klemperer’s much brisker tempo for the second movement – which sounds not a whit less impressive for it – and a greater forward drive in the sixth movement’s fugue. The recorded sound seems fairly primitive at the outset, but improves, and the performance itself builds in monumental intensity from a fairly relaxed opening.
The chorus is on its mettle and the orchestra produces wonderful playing. Hermann Prey, a 26-year-old youngster, sings with marvellous authority, and Elisabeth Grümmer invests ‘Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit’ with a terrible tenderness; but it is the grand, exalted inevitability of the sixth movement and transcendent yearning of the seventh that set the seal on a performance of real greatness. They don’t come much finer than this. Klemperer himself is heard singing, more or less, in a short rehearsal extract from the fifth movement. A warmly avuncular performance of the Mozart Serenata Notturna with the same orchestra, from 1954, makes a pleasing filler. Calum MacDonald